Warming up ahead of the bigger battles, all the leading seeds expectedly advanced to the round of 32 but what came as a surprise was second seed G. Sathiyan dropping a game to Mizoram’s Jeho Himnakulhpuingheta in the National table tennis championship at Panchkula.
Sathiyan’s 4-1 victory came after defending champion Harmeet Desai won by a similar margin against Delhi-based Yashansh Malik.
After top seed Sharath Kamal blanked Tamil Nadu’s Abinay Vijay Babu for the loss of just 20 points over four games, fourth seed Manav Thakkar was the only other top player to advance without dropping a game.
Former champion A. Amalraj, seeded nine, survived two match-points against Soumyadeep Sarkar before going through 12-10, 7-11, 7-11, 11-8, 11-9, 9-11, 14-12, but 10th seed Jeet Chandra was not so lucky.
Ex-National sub-junior champion from Tamil Nadu, left-handed Preyesh Raj upstaged Jeet 11-9, 11-6, 8-11, 11-13, 11-6, 11-9. Later, Preyesh’s statemate Ananth Devarajan almost took out Sourav Saha, seeded 14th.
After taking a 2-0 lead, Ananth could not keep up the momentum and let Saha escape to a 7-11, 8-11, 11-7, 11-5, 11-3, 6-11, 11-6 victory.
Comeback man Soumyajit Ghosh dropped two games to Mohammad Ali while another National champion Sanil Shetty dropped a game to Shankab Baruah.
On Monday, when three rounds are scheduled, Sharath is expected to face Ghosh in a much-awaited quarterfinal clash. Last year, Ghosh had ended an off-colour Sharath’s campaign. Should Sharath avenge that loss, he could meet last year’s runner-up Manav Thakkar for a place in the final.
In the last quarter of the draw, Sathiyan faces a tough test Manush Shah in the third round. Manush had almost knocked out Sathiyan in the last edition of the championship. Sathiyan’s next rival could well be Sanil in the pre-quarterfinal. The winner of their contest could face Harmeet in the semifinal.